"I know of several other people who are planning to run against him," said the elder Tucker. "Too many people know Danny now. They know his ambitions."
Tucker accused Tabor of neglecting his east Inglewood district, where Tucker lives and served as councilman before going to the Assembly. Tucker and Tabor have feuded since 1985, when Tucker accused the councilman of opposing him on local issues and backed an unsuccessful candidate against Tabor.
Tucker, a retired Army medic and county health inspector, has an alternately jovial and tough-talking manner and a passion for his family, poker and the cuisine of his native Louisiana. Tucker and his family braved racial harassment when they were among the first blacks to move into previously all-white Inglewood in 1962. He and his wife, Lorraine, have five children and two grandchildren.
After serving from 1972 to 1974 as Inglewood's first black councilman, he dispatched a crowded field of primary opponents vying for the new 50th Assembly District seat created by reapportionment. He has built a reputation as a classic old-school politician who concentrates on the nuts and bolts of attending to his constituents.
"I'm one of the few legislators who goes home every weekend," Tucker said. "People want you to answer their phone calls, people want to hear you and see you."
Help With Project
Inglewood dentist Frank Lewis said Tucker helped him and other dentists promote an effort to increase public funds for dental care for the needy several years ago, though Lewis said the group eventually abandoned the project.
"I don't know of anyone who's gone to Curtis for help and been turned away," said Lewis, who knows both candidates. "There's no question about his popularity. . . . Danny's a very bright young man with a bright political future, but I don't see any positive benefits in this."
Former El Segundo Mayor Jack Siadek predicted that Tucker will win in the mostly white, Republican city. He said Tucker has been attentive to the city's needs.
"I'm a Republican, but I hope Tucker makes it," Siadek said. "If people here vote for a Democrat, they'll vote for Tucker."
Tucker says his most notable legislative achievement has been passage of "agency shop" legislation requiring public employees to pay union dues if they work in a union-represented workplace, a major organized labor cause that helped to cement his strong union support.
Supported Death Penalty
He also wrote legislation that brings $1 million a year to Inglewood from a tax on Hollywood Park race track and voted in favor of the law that reinstated the state death penalty.
Tucker's role as a Brown lieutenant and committee head has proved to be lucrative. Health industry political action committees dominate his campaign contribution list: The California Medical PAC has given his campaign fund $34,500 this year. Last year, he received more than $11,000 in gifts and speaker fees.
Tucker's unabashed acceptance of lobbyists' generosity has occasionally drawn criticism, as in 1984, when Tucker and members of his family accepted free eye care and political contributions from competing eye-care lobbies in a fight over legislation.
Tabor has charged that Tucker is beholden to powerful lobbies rather than to his constituents.
In response to such criticism, Tucker quotes a former Assembly speaker and state treasurer: "Jesse Unruh once said to me: 'Take their money. Eat their food. Drink their booze. And then, vote no. If you can't do that, you don't belong in Sacramento.' You don't sell a vote."
Two generations separate Tucker from Tabor, whose smooth style has earned him a reputation as a rising political star. Tabor says his Assembly candidacy is part of a generational struggle in black politics between progressive young leaders and complacent incumbents.
Tabor says Tucker's campaign image as a legislator who fights for his constituents is contradicted by such district problems as the closure of hospital trauma centers, high crime and costly auto insurance rates. One of Tabor's frequent targets is legislation sponsored by Tucker that made the threatening use of a replica handgun a crime.
"Nobody's ever been shot by a replica handgun," Tabor said. "What about all the young men and women being shot down every day with real guns?"
Tucker said the gun lobby has stymied gun control legislation. He also said he had repeatedly sought increased funding to reopen trauma centers, only to have it blocked by gubernatorial vetoes.
As councilman, Tabor has emphasized affirmative action in hiring and contract opportunities for black entrepreneurs, pursuing that issue in protests with black organizations against CBS television and developer Alexander Haagen's Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping center project last year.
Tucker calls such efforts "grandstand plays" devoid of substance.